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Change is coming

By Staff | Mar 8, 2016

Amtrak, the passenger train service, will no longer have a station agent in Rugby, effective June 1.

Marc Magliari, with Amtrak Government Affairs and Corporate Communications in Chicago, said because of the high volume of Amtrak passengers obtaining electronic tickets and the lower volume of those purchasing tickets at the station, the station agent in Rugby will be relocated to the Minot station. He said no other changes will take place at the Minot Amtrak Station.

Dale Niewoehner, former mayor of Rugby who has been a lobbyist-coordinator of Amtrak services since the mid-1980s, explained in information provided to the Minot Daily News and other local media that Amtrak’s decision to unstaff the Rugby station “was reached because of federal budget cuts and the fact that most tickets are being purchased online rather than from ticket agents at stations.” Amtrak stops in Rugby twice a day.

A caretaker at the Rugby station will open and close the facility, Magliari said.

“It is important to understand that this decision would come about some day – but sad to have it really happen. It is also important to understand that Rugby has had a ticket agent for decades and Rugby is the last surviving small town station in North Dakota and many other states with a resident agent,” Niewoehner said.

He said the stations at Stanley, Devils Lake and most recently, Grand Forks have no ticket agent. “There is even hints that Fargo could be seeing a change in their status as a staffed station,” Niewoehner said.

Magliari said there are no such plans for Fargo.

Magliari said Amtrak has put several thousands of dollars into the Rugby station recently.

“In the past year, Amtrak, with a grant from the federal government for ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliance, has spent thousands of dollars to make the Rugby station somewhat handicapped accessible,” Niewoehner said.

He said the project was done with the guidance of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. “We who live in a rural community might have thought there was some ‘overkill’ in the project, but it was done in the strict compliance regulations,” he said.

This spring, he said, the repair and reconstruction of the soffits on the building will be done.

Magliari said they would like to do more passenger education and have a volunteer program at the Rugby station. He cited a passenger station in Kirkwood, Mo., with a strong volunteer program. There, volunteers meet the trains 365 days of the year and the station has become a community center.

Niewoehner said the citizens of Rugby have an opportunity to form a welcome group and be present at the station for trains.

“I am sorry that this decision has been made and I knew this day would come someday,” Niewoehner said.

Niewoehner and Amtrak station agent Duane Veach once again will be planning to host a National Train Day celebration in early May. “Duane has done a great job in taking care of passengers at the Rugby Depot for 16 years,” Niewoehner said.

Ogden is the regional editor for the Minot Daily News.

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